Since the release of his bestseller The Reason For God, Tim Keller has been on my list of “be sure to recommend and read everything he writes” list of authors. There are lots of books in the world and lots of people writing books. Because there are so many choices that your head can begin to spin, I’ve tried to be a responsible and picky filter as a service to those who trust my reading recommendations. In other words, I don’t want to recommend just anything. I want people to come back to me and say “thanks for the recommendation. . . what else should I be reading?”
Yesterday, I finished Keller’s latest little, easily read, yet meaty new book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. Keller hits it so far out of the park in this one that I’m going to watch the replay (read it again). . . and perhaps again. Because there’s so much idolatry in me, there’s so much in this book that I’ve got to ponder, digest, and take to heart. Reading Counterfeit Gods is like eating at Fogo de Chao – the Gauchos just keep coming and piling the feast of meat on your plate!
This is a meaty feast I need to eat. How easily I believe that the things that don’t really matter really matter. I am prone to pursue. . . over and over and over again. . . created things rather than the Creator. The only One who can satisfy my deepest cravings is the One who made. While I can enjoy the things He’s made, they can never fulfill.
Knowing what I know about Tim Keller, the Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, I don’t think he’d be comfortable with my referring to Counterfeit Gods as a “home run.” He’s not concerned with putting on a show. He’s more concerned with communicating a view of life that reflects the true nature of things as revealed in the Scriptures. His desire is to see his Redeemer – not himself – glorified. So, maybe I should just say that this is a book that’s got the potential to rock your world, shake up your life, and change your priorities. . . not because it’s written by Tim Keller, but because it reflects the deep truths of God’s Word about God’s rightful place in our sinful and fallen lives.
That said, let me whet your appetite with a couple of quotes from the book:
“The idol of success cannot be just expelled, it must be replaced. The human heart’s desire for a particular valuable object may be conquered, but its need to have some such object is unconquerable. How can we beat our heart’s fixation on doing ‘some great thing’ in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God’s salvation does not require us to do ‘some great thing.’ We don’t have to do it, because Jesus has.”
“When we are completely immersed in a society of people who consider a particular idolatrous attachment normal, it becomes almost impossible to discern it for what it is.”
“Is there any hope? Yes, if we begin to realize that idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced. If you only try to uproot them, they grow back; but they can be supplanted. By what? By God himself, of course. But by God we do not mean a general belief in His existence. Most people have that, yet their souls are riddled with idols. What we need is a living encounter with God.”
“It is impossible to understand your heart or your culture if you do not discern the counterfeit gods that influence them.”
“There is no way to challenge idols without doing cultural criticism, and there is no way to do cultural criticism without discerning and challenging idols.”
That’s just a taste of some really, really good stuff.